Maths and Darts

‘David you require 79.’

He steps up to the oche, thinks for a moment and tells me that treble 13 and double 20 will do it.

He hits the virtual dartboard on the interactive whiteboard and a nice round of applause tells him he’s hit the target.

Darts is all about knowing your numbers and children that play regularly certainly do. They begin to learn combinations of numbers that come naturally to them. 95? That’s treble 19, double 19. 80? That’s treble 16, double 16. You get the point.

The dartboard is a circle of dreams to a maths teacher. The numbers themselves offer oodles of possibilities.

Invite a player to the dartboard and ask them to throw three square numbers. Or how about throwing three numbers that each have four factors?

Then there’s all the ‘01’ games to milk subtraction skills. You could play with four darts instead of three and invent your own collection of numbers instead of the traditional version. Think about setting up a darts club for children to practise their skills further.

Used creatively, dartboards are outstanding resources for improving mental maths prowess and helping children feel more at home with numbers.


The original game began with a dart known to the Romans as a ‘pilum’, 10ft long and made of iron. The target was a running man! The modern game of darts actually came from medieval archery with soldiers throwing shortened arrows at the butt of an ale keg. The butt was marked with three concentric circles in order to determine the number of points awarded on a throw. When the board dried out, the cracks provided further segmentation and a more elaborate point system evolved.

Using a dartboard in a maths lesson

Dartboards are essentially structured collections of numbers and using them in a maths lesson makes perfect number sense. They are very straightforward to use, easily designed, versatile and can be used with children of any age.

Target boards can enclose any numbers and are an outstanding resource for practicing mental arithmetic skills such as addition, subtraction, doubling and tripling as well as being highly effective for developing knowledge and understanding of number properties and concepts.

The mathematics is there for the taking: factors, multiples, primes, composites, squares, measurement and weight. Seizing the day across the curriculum should never be forgotten and investigating the science of flight extends and challenges children further.

Different types of dartboard

The real beauty of a darts as a target game is that you can design your own board and number arrangements to suit the objectives you are working on.

Teaching factors? Why not make a prime dartboard with a composite number for the bullseye?

The modern dartboard with numbers from 1-20 is known as The London and this is used in most national and international tournaments. It has an inner treble ring and an outer double ring with an outer and inner bullseye.

Other boards include The Lincoln which has only one bullseye and no trebles, The Manchester with has two bullseyes and no trebles and The East End, a board with segments for scoring in multiples of five. The combinations are endless.

Games to play

Standard Play 501

The object of Standard Play is to be the first team or player to reach zero from a starting score of 501.

Players take turns to throw three darts and subtract their total from 501 until  zero is reached. To win, a player not only has to reach zero exactly, but also must obtain it through a “double.”

For example, if a player has 18 points left, he needs to hit a double 9 in order to win. The closer each player gets to zero, the more exciting and difficult Standard Play becomes. This game can also be started from point values of 301, 601, 801, 1001.

Hound and the Hare

Players toss a coin to begin the game. The player that wins the toss is the “hare,” and his opponent is the hound in pursuit. The hare must travel  clockwise around the board starting at 20. The hare wins by returning to 20 before the hound catches up. The hound usually starts from either 12 or 5, depending on the preference of the players. The hound wins by overtaking the hare.

Round the Clock

The object of this game is to be the first player to hit every number on the board from 1-20. The numbers must be hit in order, and players alternate after three throws. If a player cannot pass a certain number, he must hit it in order to advance to the next number on the board

For obvious reasons, darts is not a game without risk but using magnetic or Velcro darts makes the game safe and fun for all. Of course, there are plenty of digital versions to choose from too.

Used creatively, dartboards are a dynamic and inexpensive resource that can sharpen the mind, develop mental maths prowess, cultivate strategic thinking and problem solving, improve hand-eye co-ordination and  promote positive social interaction through team building skills.

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